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Alternative Measures of Urban Form in U.S. Metropolitan Areas. Stephen Malpezzi Wen-Kai Guo University of Wisconsin-Madison. What is sprawl?. Most writers and activists fail to define sprawl. Some elements of a definition might include: Low density Discontiguous (“leapfrog”) development

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alternative measures of urban form in u s metropolitan areas

Alternative Measures of Urban Form in U.S. Metropolitan Areas

Stephen Malpezzi

Wen-Kai Guo

University of Wisconsin-Madison

what is sprawl
What is sprawl?
  • Most writers and activists fail to define sprawl. Some elements of a definition might include:
    • Low density
    • Discontiguous (“leapfrog”) development
    • Lack of public open space
  • Other outcomes that may or may not be associated with sprawl include:
    • High auto use, low transit use
    • Differences in the cost of public services
    • Excessive loss of farmland
overall plan for malpezzi and guo
Overall Plan for Malpezzi and Guo
  • Estimate a number of candidate measures of urban form
    • MSA specific indexes, based on Census tract data
  • Which incorporate the ‘most information’ about form?
    • Regress each index against other indexes, examine fit and t-statistics
  • Which are reasonably related to determinants?
    • Regress each index against a reasonable set of determinants
  • Link to second paper: take the best index, and run with it.
candidate indexes
Candidate Indexes
  • Average MSA density
  • Sort tracts by their density. Pick density of tract containing the “median person.”
    • Many variations on this theme.
  • Estimate exponential density models
    • Univariate: intercept as well as delta, compare to flexible forms. Incorporate measures of fit.
  • Measures of dispersion
    • Gini, Theil indexes
  • Weighted average distances
    • to center; to all tracts
  • Gravity measures
  • Spatial autocorrelation
selected previous research
Selected Previous Research
  • A number of ‘sprawl’ papers examine average metropolitan density (Brueckner and Fansler, Peiser)
  • Many papers examine population density gradients, and related measures (Mills, Muth, etc., see McDonald review)
  • Compare and evaluate alternative measures
    • A fair number evaluate, e.g., power terms, test SUE model against a flexible alternative (e.g. Kau and Lee)
    • Only a few examine a fair range of alternatives (e.g. Song)
sprawl related issues
Sprawl, Related Issues
  • Bertaud and Malpezzi demonstrate that, in fact, cities like Paris and Los Angeles have much more efficient form than Seoul or Moscow, or Johannesburg.
  • What are the specific costs of sprawl which give rise to this concern? Are there benefits to “sprawl?” What are the most efficient policy responses?
    • E. Mills and B. Song, Urbanization and Urban Problems. Harvard, 1979.
    • G. Ingram, Land in Perspective. In Cullen and Woolrey, World Congress on Land Policy, DC Heath, 1982
    • A. Bertaud and S. Malpezzi, The Spatial Distribution of Population in 35 World Cities
measuring sprawl
Measuring Sprawl
  • Since sprawl is hard to define, it’s not surprising few papers have tried to measure it.
  • Many papers rely on average population density in the metro area.
  • Our usual density gradients
    • including power terms, R-squared
  • Moments of tract density
  • Gini coefficients, Theil information measures
  • Distance/gravity measures
  • Techniques of measuring spatial autocorrelation
  • Data reduction (principal components?)
measuring sprawl1
Measuring Sprawl
  • Our initial measure will rely on tract densities within MSAs.
  • Sort each MSA’s census tracts by density, lowest to highest. Use the density of the tract containing the 10th percentile of MSA population, when tracts are so ordered.
    • Can use other percentiles (median, quartiles, etc.)
    • A better measure of density at the fringe.
    • Pros and cons?
  • Under development: average lot size for a “new” single family house, from AHS
slide9

Example of a measure based on order statistics: the average density of the tract containing the median of the MA population, when tracts are ranked by density.

Our MA has 7 tracts, total pop. is 100. Where is person 50?

the measure we focus on today
The measure we focus on today.
  • The average density of the tract containing the 10th percentile of the metropolitan area’s population, when tracts are ranked by density. Say it 10 times, fast.
  • Pros:
    • Distinguishes between MAs with a lot of open space, and those without.
    • Gets at density on “the margin” without a particular assumption about monocentricity.
  • Cons:
    • There’s no guarantee that this “fringe” tract is really on the fringe.
    • The usual issues with using “gross” tract densities.
costs and benefits of sprawl the pure cost view
Costs and Benefits of Sprawl: The “Pure Cost” View

$

Costs per housing unit fall with density

Maximum feasible density, under

current rules and practices

Density of Development

Figure 1

costs and benefits of sprawl the cost benefit view
Costs and Benefits of Sprawl: The Cost-Benefit View

$

Costs fall with density

Willingness-to-pay first rises, then

falls, with density

Maximum feasible density

Density of Development

Maximize

Benefit-Cost

Figure 2

costs and benefits of sprawl the cost benefit view with externalities
Costs and Benefits of Sprawl: The Cost-Benefit View, with Externalities

Social costs (= private costs + external cost)

$

Private costs

Willingness-to-pay

Maximum feasible density

Density of Development

Maximize

Private

Benefit-Cost

Maximize

Social

Benefit-Cost

Figure 3

nine causes of sprawl richard k green
Nine Causes of Sprawl (Richard K. Green)
  • Rent gradient
  • Demographics
  • Growing affluence
  • Transportation changes
  • Government service differentials
  • Racial discrimination and segregation
  • Plattage and plottage
  • Tax policy
  • Land use regulation
more causes of sprawl
More causes of sprawl
  • Economic structure
  • The degree of monocentricity
  • Opportunity cost of land in rural uses
some opinions
Some Opinions
  • American Farmland Trust, Farming on the Edge
  • Bank of America et al., Beyond Sprawl
  • Al Gore, several recent speeches
  • Peter Gordon and Harry Richardson, “Are Compact Cities a Desirable Planning Goal?”
  • Reid Ewing, “Is Los Angeles Style Sprawl Desirable?”
  • John Norquist, The Wealth of Cities
  • Richard Moe, Growing Smarter
  • Many more, type “sprawl” into your browser and stand back.
some literature
Some Literature
  • Real Estate Research Corporation, The Costs of Sprawl (1974)
  • Critiques of RERC by Altshuler (1977) and Windsor (1979)
  • Downs, New Visions for a Metropolitan America
  • Helen Ladd, “Population Growth, Density, and the Costs of Providing Public Services” (1992)
  • David Mills (1981)
  • Richard Peiser (1989)
  • Brueckner and Fansler (1983)
  • Burchell and Listokin, others at Rutgers, on “fiscal impact analysis” (various), The Costs of Sprawl Revisited (1998)
highly tentative conclusions
Highly Tentative Conclusions
  • Transit infrastructure has little effect on density per se.
  • More mass transit is associated with longer commutes.
  • Higher densities lower commutes, ceteris paribus.
  • Will these results hold up to further work?
some next steps
Some Next Steps
  • Alternative sprawl measures (e.g. AHS new housing density)
  • Better measures of transit infrastructure
  • Model other outcomes that reflect potential costs and benefits of sprawl
    • environmental outcomes
    • public service costs
    • racial and economic segregation
  • Endogeneity, endogeneity, endogeneity
why do we observe decentralization
Why Do We Observe Decentralization?
  • Standard Urban Economics (SUE) model: rising incomes, falling transport costs
  • “Blight Flight” or Amenities/disamenities models
  • Public policies
  • Change in technology, shift to service economy, incubator processes?
the u s is well endowed with land
The U.S. is Well-Endowed with Land
  • The U.S. has 7% of the world’s land area.
  • But 13% of the world’s cropland is in the U.S.
  • The U.S. has roughly 10 acres of land for every inhabitant.
how u s urban land is used 1980
How U.S. Urban Land is Used, 1980

Source: Vesterby and Heimlich, 1991

u s land use
U.S. Land Use
  • Urban land is 3 percent of U.S. land by area, but the majority of land by value.
  • With about 4 hectares of land per person (gross), the U.S. is far from typical in density.
  • However, even very dense countries, like Korea, have small percentages of land in urban uses (see below).
u s cropland and urban land area
U.S. Cropland and Urban Land Area

Figure A-2

USDA, Census

u s cropland and urban land area1
U.S. Cropland and Urban Land Area
  • While the share of U.S. land in urban uses has been growing (from a low base), cropland has been roughly constant over the last 40 years.
  • When relative prices warrant it, land can readily be converted from other uses to agriculture.
some big picture land use questions indicative only not exhaustive
Some Big-Picture Land Use Questions (Indicative Only, Not Exhaustive)
  • Can we reconcile market approaches with social and ethical concerns?
    • Why have many economists focused so much on costs of regulation, not on benefits?
    • Why have many noneconomists neglected costs?
  • How can we get a better handle on the real social cost-benefit of different land uses?
    • Just because something’s hard to measure doesn’t mean it isn’t important
  • Can we focus more rigorously on distributional issues (as well as efficiency)?
more land use questions
More Land Use Questions
  • What’s the right system of incentives (taxes, subsidies, regulations, etc.)?
    • Lower order: for market participants?
    • Higher order: for planners and policymakers?
  • Urban decentralization (“sprawl”) is high on the public agenda. What can we say about costs and benefits, and appropriate responses?
  • Many other important land use issues, e.g.
    • Brownfields
    • Preservation
    • Central city/suburban/rural issues
some general things to look for in a cluster hire in land use
Some General Things to Look for in a Cluster Hire in Land Use
  • Rigor
  • Open-mindedness
  • Some appreciation of the economics of land use (formal or informal)
  • Good institutional knowledge as well as technical training
  • Interest in urban and rural land use issues
  • Understanding related markets (e.g. transportation) would be a plus
some objectives for a potential hire in land economics
Some objectives for a potential hire in land economics
  • Put the “sprawl” debate on a more rigorous footing: better definition and measurement, cost and benefits, determinants, policy recommendations
  • Enhance understanding of interactions among land use, general economic development, transport, real estate
  • What are the costs and benefits of different development patterns, of different public interventions?
  • How do land uses affect income distribution, racial and ethnic cleavages
  • Needs a strong economics background with demonstrated ability to work with noneconomists; knowledge of planning, law, institutions a plus
  • International as well as U.S. perspectives a plus
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